As much as possible I love to grow my own food, that which I do not manage to grow myself I like to at least source from local producers. This leaves me eating fresh fruit and veggies grown within my local climatic conditions. So when I take a trip I always delight in the different fruits that are available and that I never buy at home.
Last year ended for me with a few weeks in Cambodia and I was very happy to not only eat some delicious tropical fruit but also to see many fruits actually growing. Seeing a plant grow gives me an opportunity to learn more, to deepen my relationship with the food it produces. If I get the chance I like to sit with the plants, to talk to them, to listen to them and maybe fall in love with them, even just a little bit.
The following are a few of the tropical fruit plants that I saw growing for the very first time on this trip…
Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola). A waxy fruit that is not particularly tasty, in my opinion, but I had to add it as it looks so cool, especially when sliced giving a bright yellow star on your plate
Star fruits are high in fibre, vitamins B complex & C, minerals including potassium, phosphorus, zinc & iron. When vitamin C appears alongside iron the iron is more easily absorbed and so can help treat or prevent the occurrence of anaemia.
Jack Fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). This is a bit of a crazy looking fruit and huge in size, you certainly wouldn’t want one to fall and land on your head. The yellow flesh inside the rough outer skin is easy to separate into smaller chunks as each piece of flesh covers a stone sized seed. It is very tasty and not as rich or creamy as durian so can be easier to eat in quantity.
Jack fruits are high in fibre, vitamins A, B complex & C, minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese & selenium. The magnesium helps with the absorption of calcium to keep bones strong and healthy.
Fresh Green Peppercorns (Piper Nigrum). These pea sized round green fruits when fully mature are left to dry and become the more familiar black peppercorns that sit in pepper mills across the planet. Eaten fresh they are delicious with a much more delicate spicy bite than their older dried brothers. Are they really a fruit? I don’t actually know but I had to add them in here as for one it was great to see some growing on the vine but also because these ones in particular are renowned worldwide for being the best and most tasty peppercorns available, Kampot pepper, they did not disappoint.
Black pepper is well known for it’s medicinal qualities but even these young fruits prove high in vitamin K and iron. In addition they aid digestion and help fight bacterial growth in the intestines.
Papaya (Carica papaya). I enjoy papaya both when it is still green, especially as part of the spicy raw Thai dish som tam, but also when the flesh is soft and ripe and orange. When ripe they are delicious with a little squirt of fresh lime, a perfect start to a day in the tropics.
Papayas are high in fibre, vitamins A, B complex, C & E, minerals including calcium and iron. Eating fresh raw papaya helps replenish the good bacteria in your intestines, helps with digestion, helps maintain the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis). I go crazy for the tart insides of this fruit. The little slime covered seeds can be eaten with a spoon straight from the skin or as I discovered on this latest trip blended with a bit of ice to make a somewhat crunchy fresh fruit shake.
Passion fruit is high in fibre, vitamins A & E, minerals including potassium, iron, copper, magnesium & phosphorus. Vitamin E is essential for eye health while potassium helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Each one of these fruits will help your body maintain a healthy immune system, keep you fit and strong whilst protecting you against a variety of conditions. Of course each one is unique in its composition and thus its role in your health but as you eat fresh, raw, local fruits (wherever you are) you set your body up with the nutrients it needs to stay strong and avoid the development of many diseases and conditions that are becoming all too familiar to those following a more heavily processed diet.
And now one for fun! Does anyone know what the following “fruit” is? It is not eaten in Cambodia and although it grows there no one I approached seemed to know what it was, even its name – do you? Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a plant of great beauty 🙂